It’s no secret that Street Fighter V got off to a disastrous start, and despite years of course correction, its flawed foundation made a comeback difficult. By contrast, Street Fighter 6 is a thorough response to its predecessor’s failings, defined by well-considered central mechanics, formidable single-player offerings, and a plethora of smart decisions that make for a powerful opening punch.
Those primarily interested in duking it out against other players have a lot to look forward to; between the snappy movement and wealth of strategic options, it’s a joy to play. The biggest addition is the new Drive System, which elegantly combines several mechanics like powered-up special attacks, cancels, and defensive maneuvers under a shared resource. This meter starts fully stocked and replenishes automatically, giving ready access to a large arsenal of options, but leaves you vulnerable when depleted, setting up a compelling risk/reward dynamic that tinges on every interaction.
Additionally, the game’s pace feels more deliberate than Street Fighter V, creating rewarding back-and-forth exchanges allowing its more cerebral elements to shine. Specifically, the extended range of normal attacks makes careful poking battles more common, and strikes are less advantageous when blocked, meaning aggressors can’t single-mindedly run their offense. The 18-character roster is also a slam dunk, combining returning favorites with cleverly designed newcomers to deliver a wide variety of playstyles and degrees of complexity. Each has a robust move set, and almost every fighter has a unique gimmick that can transform the match.
For instance, Manon is a grappler whose command grabs become more damaging every time one lands, making her an imposing momentum-based character, while Jamie is a Drunken Master-style brawler who gains new moves with each chug. Every major character archetype feels well-represented here, from zoners to rushdown characters, meaning players shouldn’t have a hard time finding someone who speaks to them. While only time will tell how the metagame shakes out, Street Fighter 6’s starting roster and core systems offer an excellent platform to build upon.
And for those less interested in playing against others, the most noteworthy mode is World Tour. This lengthy single-player story lets you explore a semi-open Metro City filled with fisticuff-loving weirdos, side quests, and RPG-lite progression. In addition to being an enjoyably strange adventure, it also successfully introduces and tutorializes some of the game’s deeper systems while offering a largely satisfying series of brawls.
Battles in World Tour are enticing thanks to foes’ unique attack patterns and how each enemy is paired with optional objectives that grant bonus rewards. Best of all, your avatar can learn abilities from the main roster, allowing you to mix the best elements of grapplers, zoners, and rushdown characters into a hilariously broken fighter. I was genuinely surprised by how much there is to this mode, and it took me more than 25 hours to reach the credits. While the World Tour is far from perfect – some fights felt overly chaotic due to how they handle being sandwiched between multiple enemies, and the overarching storytelling leaves much to be desired – it is a solid entry point for new players that will give those uninterested in testing their mettle online plenty to do.
Beyond this, an abundance of inclusions demonstrates an impressive degree of polish. There are multiple control schemes aimed at beginners, party settings, a robust training room, Arcade mode, accessibility options, and a fully realized lobby system. Tack on well-implemented rollback netcode, quick rematches, and the ability to queue up for online games from almost anywhere, and Street Fighter 6 makes it easy to get in and play.
As the series that pioneered fighting games, each new Street Fighter comes with weighty expectations. Street Fighter 6 confidently meets this hype, catering to neophytes and genre veterans by offering the most extensive array of offline offerings the franchise has ever seen alongside a flexible set of core systems and a diverse cast. Between its cohesive aesthetic, the bounty of clever features, and crisp central gameplay, it’s one of the most impressive entries the genre has seen in some time.